Sunday, September 01, 2013

Following Someone Else's Dream: Midnight Adventure in China

Vol. II, No. 7

In the middle of the night, the baby woke up and emphatically pointed to the door. If she'd done this silently, I probably wouldn't be telling you about it, but she did it with noisy gusto. And so for a walk we all went, into the quiet and the stillness and the misty midnight darkness of Yangshuo, China.
After our midnight adventure into Yangshuo

Beneath the towering karst that make up Yangshuo's unusual landscape, we picked our way from the hotel onto the main road, passing by hillsides dotted with cobblestone graves, and passing through a tiny village of four houses and an empty riverside stall advertising honey for sale. The silence was audible, the darkness nearly complete. The peaks all around us—there are thousands of them—make you feel as if you're walking in a bustling metropolis where all the buildings have been covered in bush.

Breakfast with my girl
At one of these skinny green skyscraper peaks, we hung a left and made our way toward the Yulong River, where we'd taken the baby white-water rafting the day before. Mercifully, she didn't seem to remember any of it, although I certainly did. The Yulong is a tributary of the Li River and is described by local travel leaflets as a "bright pearl in the beautiful land of China, a jade ribbon among...stunning landscape...that winds through rice fields, farmhouses, fishing ponds, and thousands of peaks."

Looking up at one of these peaks, I pointed and said to the baby, "冒险," or "adventure," a word I've been trying to teach her since the day she was born. Instead, she pointed to the light rapids floating downstream and said, "Dukkah,"which maybe meant duck, although there wasn't one in sight. Dawn was now just beginning to crest over the horizon, peeking through the emerald monoliths. We made our way back to the hotel, where the staff was preparing a breakfast of freshly roasted coffee, homemade bread, and scrambled eggs.

Cycling thru the town of Yangshuo, China
Three cups later, and I'd gotten my second wind. It was time—for some adventure. And it was at this point that my husband and I decided to do the sensible thing: take turns parting company for the day. We'd learned our lesson trying to white-water raft with a nine-month-old baby, and we weren't keen to repeat the mistake. Now one of us would stay with the baby, while the other sought out 冒险. It was my turn, and I was giddy with anticipation.

Back outside our hotel, with a daypack slung over my shoulder, I met Xiao Yu, or 'Daybreak Jade,' who would be my guide for the day. Together, she and I headed into town on rented bicycles, pedaling past strawberry, watermelon, and musk melon fields. Soon we really were in a bustling metropolis: flatbed trucks rumbled past, choking out black puffs of diesel; vans chock-full of commuting passengers honked at nothing in particular; and hawkers monotonously and shrilly hawked everything from noodles to tchotchke. We were headed for Moon Hill, one of those famous karst limestone peaks. And I would climb it. But first, I needed to rub a turtle's head.

Stay tuned...

- Patricia Sexton is the author of "LIVE from Mongolia," the true story of a woman chucking in her Wall Street career to become anchor of the Mongolian new. She's also the host of Sinovision's WE Talk, a talk show exploring how celebrities and artists have overcome big obstacles to pursue extraordinary dreams. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook. Her book is available now for pre-order on Click here to pre-order. 

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